The kingdom or conquest of the kitchen

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By FLAVIO AGUIAR*

A simple tribute to brides' month and mother's day

In the contumacious consumption
That of our life is a guide
Bridal Month is May
And on your second Sunday
Every mother has her day.
Because here with artistic verve
To pay homage I leave:

In each i I put your drop
With the simplest words,
From that feminine fraternity

And your kingdom of spoons and pans.
But to anyone who reads it I would say
That virtue doesn't live here
From political correctness,

Happy and seen so often.
And since I don't provoke disaffection
I warn you: if such a person does not appreciate
The taste and knowledge of irony
Please, run away from here and follow:
Go read in another parish.

A domestic epic

Dear reader, dear reader, dear reader:

Here I begin a series of short stories about the conquest of a kingdom, that of the kitchen. I have already announced that this series will be an epic work, an epic, about entering and mastering a world that was forbidden to me by predestination, that of kitchen alchemies. It will not be a recipe book, although it may contain some; It won’t be a self-help book, like “improve your life by cooking”.

On the contrary, some of the observations could make people's lives worse, at least momentarily, as they will deal with prejudices, stereotypes, everyday violence, and other things that can be unpleasant for the most delicate minds.

The warning has been made. If you want, follow me through the story of the conquest of this kingdom.

The homo domesticus not necessarily a domesticated man
(Proverb from the revolution of manners in the 1960s).

Photo of the author's barbecue
in Itapecerica da Serra

The wooden spoon

“My kingdom for…”

Tragic heroes or anti-heroes, like Shakespeare's Richard III, could add:

“…for a horse!”

Othello would say (because in the play he didn't say):

“…for a handkerchief from Desdemona!”

In this set of chronicles that I now begin, I limit myself to saying, more prosaically:

“…for a wooden spoon!”

Because the wooden spoon was the first scepter I knew. It was the symbol of power over a kingdom: that of the kitchen. The kitchen of all alchemies, where raw things were transformed into expected or cursed food. Because not everything that comes from the kitchen is desired; some things are worse than poison, because of the obligation to eat them when you don't want to, or when you hate them.

In my parents' house, the one who wielded the scepter, and with adams of absolutism, was my grandmother, my father's mother. The maid – an employee, as it sounded like at the time – wore it, but by delegation from the monarch. This word comes well. For those who know the social stratification of the pampas, where my grandmother came from, “monarch” designated the independent campeiro, without documents, but with a scarf around his neck, owner of his horse and his nose, who offered work, music and fun in exchange of food and sustenance for some time. “Young monarch doesn’t sign himself, he scratches the mark”, says the campeiro saying, collected by Antonio Pereira Coruja and published in his collection of gaucho terms in 1861, referring to the fact that the majority of these high-achieving men did not know how to read nor write.

My grandmother – named Henriqueta – barely knew how to read and write; she belonged to the women's side of the field; but she had something of the lofty performance of that Pampean life of yore. At least that's how she behaved in relation to her kingdom, the kitchen.

This kingdom was a source of fierce dispute between her and my mother. She, my grandmother, had the upper hand. My mother, a modern woman, worked and was a teacher at the General Flores da Cunha Education Institute which, despite the name, was exclusively for girls. I spent the day outside. My grandmother stayed at home; She also worked, at least for some time during my first or second childhood, in any case the earliest times in my memory. But she worked from home. She sewed, mended, sewed on buttons, made and re-hemmed trousers, turned collars, especially on uniforms of the Military Brigade, the Rio Grande do Sul PM. I often accompanied her, taking bundles with patched uniforms, to the Brigade Headquarters in the city center.

For this reason, by staying at home, my grandmother established her reign in the kitchen. And the political dispute in question was what my father would eat. He worked as an accountant in the center; He walked to and from work. He could – and did – come home for lunch.

We lived in Gasometer, today part of the historic center, a concept that didn't exist at the time. Then he would take a half-hour nap and go back to work, where he would stay until six in the afternoon or evening, depending on the season.

That contest, which my grandmother won every day, had a symbol, a sacred ritual. My father would come home from work, take off his jacket, loosen his tie, sometimes open his vest, roll up his shirt sleeves and sit at the table. He took a piece of bread and broke it with his hands; Meanwhile, my grandmother placed a steaming plate of soup in front of him, with meat, vegetables and some green leaves. It was like that every single day, every day of the week, all year round, whether it was hot or cold.

This memory was so strong that years later, when I was already living in São Paulo, I repeated the scene when I welcomed my parents home. It was their first visit to my married home. My mother and my wife went out “shopping”. I stayed at home with my father, who wanted to rest from the bus trip, as planes were for rich people and they had arrived the night before. At that time there was a cleaning lady who came to our house once a week. Pressured, I, who still wasn't dealing with these things well, had asked him the day before to make a bowl of soup for my father. I warmed it up and served the dish to him.

Face to face, he looked at me with his clear, greenish eyes. And he said to me, humbly, as if apologizing:

– I hate soup.

It was as if lightning struck my head. For the first time I had the measure – or the unmeasured – of the extent of my grandmother's reign, and the importance of that scepter, the wooden spoon.

Hands on

The party started on Saturday afternoon. Because back then there was no ready-made pasta in the supermarket. In fact, strictly speaking, there wasn't even a supermarket. The first one in Porto Alegre opened when I was already big. I remember it was at Brizola's city hall, and it was public, as were the recent shopping malls in São Paulo before the privatization of everything. His name was Cobal, the super gaucho liked to shorten everything, even life from time to time, in those apoplectic revolutions of yesteryear.

The pasta was made at home. A company gathered: friends, aunts, cousins, all women, of course. And it was time to make the dough.

First there was the wonderful thing about mixing the flour and eggs. I, who liked to knead clay in the backyard, loved putting my hand in the cob made of white flour, eggs divided between the transparent white and the golden yolk, and kneading that mixture between my fingers. Then came the moment when the shapeless masses were reduced to true long, yellow tongues of finished dough when passed through the machine full of coils and with a crank that – wonder of wonders – I was the one touching.

And there was still a second moment – ​​when the pasta tongues went through the machine again, with changed coils, which reduced them to threads, which were what would be eaten for Sunday lunch, with the meat and tomato sauce that my grandmother prepared. , when the scepter returned to his hands. Also in the step of fraying the dough tongues, I exercised my manual skills, touching the crank. Does this have anything to do with my future preference for being a goalkeeper?

This was my first step into that kitchen kingdom, learning from my grandmother that as important as wielding the scepter was sometimes knowing how to delegate the power it represented. A lesson that I developed in my future life as a trade unionist.

But there was more.

On those Saturdays where I spent time with women, I learned to enjoy their conversations. Because between one mass and another, one coil more or less, the gossip and futuristic facts of the week were reviewed. It was an unraveling – like the masses on the reels – of suspicions, malicious comments, confidences, fears, betrayals suggested or carried out, in short, a universe much more interesting than the insipid conversations of men about football, horses, cars, or even politics.

I suspect that women then thought that children like me were too stupid to understand the meaning of those phrases, like one that I kept in my tired ears today, but then always alert: “yes, he goes to one here on the street above, but I pretend I don’t know.” Or: “that woman left her husband and went to live in Rio”… I suspect that was where my writerly streak began to form. After all, whatever the case, what we reveal in our scribbles are secrets about other people's lives, the characters' lives, or our own.

The paschal lamb

My parents had a house on the beach. River beach, on the other side of Guaíba, Alegria was its name. The house was on top of a hill where there was no road. The hill wasn't very steep, so getting there by car or on foot was easy, despite the luggage we had to carry.

The house was small, the land was large, at least for my childhood size. It had attractive differences in levels, as well as other attractions, such as the huge, gray lizards that came to surround the kitchen. They had a reputation as guard dogs: they killed snakes with their tails. And there were snakes, as well as scorpions and spiders. I remember a huge crab tree that lived in the cistern, under the house. I dedicated a poem to him:

To a crab tree that I once saw inside a cistern

Glossy heart of the night, 
Suspended in the flashlight beam: 
In the bulge of this watery womb 
The hairy body gasps on guard. 
Soon you slip the severe confusion of your paws 
To the enjoyment of our amazed disgust.

I admire such a queenly pose,
The flowery gesture, even in the liquidity of the end.
If I shoot you with the speed of a wasp
Or if the broom your step cuts,
You keep your modesty, with your body retracting your paws. 
You leave life like someone who closes themselves in cups.

We went there in the summer, after Christmas. And we returned after Carnival, in February. It was the reign of freedom: I took off my shoes upon arrival and only put them on on the day of my return, when I returned to Porto Alegre with my skin burned by the sun, which later earned me the nickname “negão” in football.

Otherwise, the days were filled with trips to the beach, morning and afternoon. In the morning the tide was low, the waters of the river looked like a mirror. In the afternoon the tide was high, there was wind and more or less large waves. And there was time to ride a bike, play football, sleep at night listening to the sometimes violent rustle of the wind in the trees in the surrounding woods, especially in the huge fig tree at the back of the house, which was 150 years old or more.

There I also began to come into contact with the harsh world of the Gaucho campaign. Not far from the beach there was a slaughterhouse. The herds arrived from the interior, led with a goad, lasso and horse. And then the gauchões with wide-brimmed hats, skin more burnt than mine, red or white scarves around their necks, came to walk their horses, giving them a drink, on the beach where we bathed. They were imposing for my size, they even resembled the old images of the “monarchs of the pampas”.

We rarely went there after the summer. The trips were long, you had to cross the river with boats that had been bought from the Americans after the Second World War, take buses on both sides of the river, and besides, after April the weather became very cold. Easter was a kind of last frontier, if it was early: it was still possible to go there.

It was during one of these Easters that I learned about one of the first independences that men could give themselves, in that world that was still blessed and full of prayers. We had a neighbor, his Oscar, a strong, gray-haired man, loud but a good guy, who came alone to the house next door. He was a widower. He caught fish in the river, which he brought in a kerosene can and roasted them in an improvised brazier.

That Easter, Oscar came to our house and asked my grandmother to fry him some sausage. It was late afternoon. My grandmother was shocked:

– But Mr Oscar, today is Good Friday. You can't eat meat.

His Oscar's gaze stopped in midair. I don't think he had thought about the problem. Would you be an atheist? Agnostic? Freemason? Communist? Jewish or Muslim he was not…

I don't know. But his response was Christian: 

– Dona Henriqueta, I once asked the priest: does sin enter or exit through the mouth? The priest answered me: sin comes out through the mouth. The sausage goes in, so it can't be a sin.

My grandmother was very religious, but very practical and determined. He was convinced by the argument, and asked Maria, who was the maid, to fry the sausage, which Oscar was enjoying, with cassava flour and a few glasses of red wine that he had brought.

I learned my lesson. Decades later, in an iconoclastic time that I went through, I religiously made an Easter lamb. I would prepare it days in advance, add garlic and everything. But I ate it on Good Friday, instead of cod. And I thought that in this way I was taking away my sins from the world, taking revenge for my foolishness when I was a kid.

Today I don't do this anymore. I reserve my lamb for Sunday and on Friday I prefer the usual cod.

But I maintain my admiration for his Oscar, who I consider, in his graying and his outbursts, as handsome as those gauchões who arrived with their horses on the beach of my childhood, bringing breaths of an unforgettable mythical freedom.

My debut at the barbecue

The true homeland of the gaucho is the barbecue. Nomad, he takes it with him, in the form of a trellis (grill, for other Brazilians), which he sets up anywhere. A little salt, a piece of meat with a layer of fat, a drink of cane, a sip of wine, a handful of flour and the country is made. Nothing to do with this all-you-can-eat carvery and skewers, plus a myriad of sushi, crazy pastas, waiters with bow ties and caipirinhas that cost an arm and a leg, not to mention the price of the wines.

When I was a child, in addition to the trivet, there was a barbecue made of loose bricks. Improvised in any place protected from the wind, in a corner of the beach or in the backyard, it was already proof of a culture that was becoming sedentary. The bricks were leftovers from the house, from the warehouse, where the old gaucho andejo or the recently arrived immigrant began to settle.

And the piece of rare meat was the surviving sign of the mobs of persecuted Indians, persecuting parties, civil wars without trenches but full of cavalcades; or remnants of wild herds, struggles on poorly demarcated borders, not only between Portuguese and Castilians, Imperials and Farroupilhas, Maragatos and Woodpeckers, but also between barbarism and civilization, where not infrequently – as today – the latter is not elsewhere , or in the other, but in the heart of this and the subject who thinks he is better and more complete.

A brick barbecue, with a roof and chimney, was a rich man's thing. A steakhouse was a space for foreigners or visiting Brazilians, or something nice that was seen in Rio de Janeiro (in São Paulo they were rare, echoes of the troubles and resentments of '32). Barbecue was eaten while drinking beer, because it was a summer dish. Winter and barbecue were enemies, due to the cold, rain and wind, which delayed the roast or dried out the meat. In short, the barbecue and the barbecue were the buttresses of a homeland – as you can see in the photo of my grandfather, attached, calloused by the scars of time.

But barbecue and barbecue had this peculiarity: being a masculine space, where and when the kitchen was a feminine kingdom. In that world and at that time, barbecuing was proof of public entry into male maturity, just as drinking or smoking in secret were the first signs of independence. We could start to speak harshly, or to use with conviction the voice that grew thicker, along with the fluff that itched on the chin and the future mustache with its untimely and bold hairs. However, I must pay tribute: the one who speared the meat was my mother. As a chief surgeon, my father only came into play when it was time to operate.

As a sign of prosperity, my father had a brick barbecue built in the backyard of our house, in Porto Alegre. It was imposing, in its own way: a change of era, as was the introduction of the gas stove in the kitchen and the electric shower in the bathroom, displacing the wood stove and the hot water boiler that accompanied it. And I dreamed of my debut at that barbecue place, surrounded by pomp and circumstance, skewering meat, salting it with coarse salt, drinking cane and beer like grown-ups. And it hadn't yet been used when I made my debut.

Well, I got started with tobacco, cane and beer with my schoolmates. And my introduction to the barbecue came, but not in the way I had thought.

In April 1964 the coup took place. Once Goulart's government was overthrown, and the abuses and persecutions began, imperious things were imposed. Among them, the following: at the Faculty of Medicine, where my older brother studied, it became necessary to destroy – erase from history – an edition of the Academic Center newspaper. The president of the Center had been in Cuba a month earlier, and the edition had, in bold letters, with his huge photo, the headline on the cover: “Our man in Havana”. There were two thousand copies!

One night my brother brought them home. In secret so no one can see. And over the next two days I burned that entire newspaper, copy after copy, on my father's barbecue. It was an insane job, in every way, rhyming with an insane time. Quite a debut. In what I wanted my homeland to be.

Today, living in Berlin, I visit Bebelplatz from time to time, where the great burning of the books of the Third Reich took place on May 10, 1933. Of course, the meanings between one thing and another were very different. But I always think that burning books and newspapers, or other documents, is a cursed fate.

Maybe that's why that much-desired barbecue, which my father had built, didn't end up being used as such. In fact, it became a workshop with carpentry bits, then a warehouse for junk and old chairs.

To this day I think this has to do with the curse of mine and your debut.

Photo of the author's grandfather with his
portable grill/tremp

The academic career at the barbecue

Now that we have entered the world of barbecue, or rather, the barbecue grill, we are approaching an endless world.

Firstly, because there are as many barbecue chefs and as many theories about barbecue as there are barbecue areas. At least in Rio Grande do Sul and its surroundings. So what will be written here is entirely subject to disputes, and only God knows how many.

As I was a university professor for most of my life, I gave in to the temptation of comparing the world of barbecue to academia. If I were a theologian, I would be bringing that world closer to the celestial spheres. Or I would enter into debates about the biblical origins of barbecue. In fact, I did this once, remembering that Noah's first act after leaving the Ark of the Flood was to burn all the animals in a gigantic bonfire in honor of Jehovah (Genesis, 8, 20 – 22). He smelled the delicious odor, which pleased him. And from then on, Jehovah put order in the world, creating the days and nights and the seasons. Which proves the civilizing powers of barbecue. Before, the weather looked like it does today: chaos. He could have done it too: in a hurry, Jehovah created everything in just six days to rest on the seventh, since no one is made of iron.

Let's start with the truisms: slow heat, no flames, just embers, fat side up and bone down, never take the meat out of the fridge and put it directly on the fire, use coarse salt, exclude the vinaigrette, etc. Once these platitudes have been mastered, the would-be barbecue chef will have obtained his high school diploma and will be about to enter university.

This making picanhas and maminhas is a mere graduation, even if they are preceded by sausages and sausages, in addition to chicken hearts. Well, you can always refine this degree, learning, for example, what the difference is between a sausage and a sausage. But to do this you need to go to the Porto Alegre Public Market or similar and buy a bunch of sausages, which are large and stuffed with green seasoning.

The graduate degree begins with the rib. I have always wondered why Jehovah chose Adam's rib to fashion the first woman. Since he predicted everything, he should have already built something special into it. Because I consider the rib to be the cosmic center of barbecue. If it doesn't work, the whole thing falls apart. You'll see what this is. Because right from the start, even raw, the rib combines softness and consistency. In this sense, it is the ideal piece for modeling something – including barbecue, where it is the main balancing factor.

The point is to keep it that way, until the end, that is, the tasting. It is also known that barbecue meat should be eaten rare, but in the case of ribs it is necessary to discern the exact point, because the layer of fat (which after a certain age we should eat in moderation, at least on a weekday ) should be somewhat toasted and the edges of the meat should also be toasted, while the core should be rare, but not overcooked. You should also know the difference between ribs, minga, pequetita, and ribs, that is, the almost entire piece, which is grilled on the barbecue exclusively with wood turned into charcoal. In the countryside, it is customary to roast the ribs whole over a fire, but in the city this is impossible.

You must know how to make and separate the matambre layer, tough but tasty, commonly called “poor man's gum”. This is the master's degree, after the twentieth time done without error. Today, as the middle class and the bourgeoisie want to differentiate themselves through consumption, it has become common to favor cuts and meats from across the border. I confess that Argentine and Uruguayan meats are attractive, due to the earlier slaughter policy – ​​early, but I prefer Brazilian cuts, or d'aquém-Prata. “Asado de tira” is only good on the trivet, and anyway, look there. You must have taken a specialization course with Prata. And that mixing barbecue with offal, “riñones”, liver, and bull sack is not my thing. Whoever wants to qualify. Not to mention the neo-custom of changing the names of meats, preferring terms like steakwide steak and quejandos, common in steakhouses called grills and serve caipirinhas only with vodka or rum, banning cachaça and also cassava flour.

Let's move on to the doctorate: simple, the chicken. For those who think it's easy, just think about the mixture of meats, wings, breast, thigh, thigh, etc. to see that the operation is complex, and also with the addition of frying or grilling the polenta at the same time. Not to mention the preparation of the radite salad (a Gaucho term for a bitter green very similar to arugula, but similar is not the same, as the saying goes), which must coincide with the rest (in this case the salad is served at the same time), including a little fried beacon to make the sin more complete. Complex doctorate, the ram. Ribs, ribs, shoulder, whatever.

A postgraduate student once asked a colleague of mine, famous for his foul mouth, what was essential to do a doctorate. “Ass,” he replied, referring to the hours of reading, reflection and scribbling necessary to produce a worthwhile doctorate, requiring sitting. Standing reflection is for queuing at the bank; lying down is Aristotelian laziness. In other words, to do a doctorate, patience is required. It's the same thing with sheep. A good shoulder on the barbecue takes two hours on slow heat (soft for a gas stove).

Once again foreignisms have taken over our middle class and bourgeoisie who give several fingers for a taste of colonization (never rings), and now there is talk of “carré” and I don't know what else. Don't fall for this. Leave this to restaurants in São Paulo or Rio. Continue making your ribs, baby back ribs, shoulder blades, or if you are a gaucho, spineaço and chuleta, commonly known as bisteca for northerners. It's good to remember that when it comes to barbecue, the North starts at the border between Rio Grande and Santa Catarina. There is no political separatism in this, only carnal, or carnivorous. As we have already seen, thanks to academic examples, a doctorate requires a combination of patience and versatility. Furthermore, the doctorate is personal and requires originality. This is where the living person begins to discover their own style.

As the lamb requires time, the barbecue chef needs to enhance the barbecue with more conversation. And this depends on each person's skill. A picanha can be grilled in silence. Never any sheep meat. To do so, the barbecue chef needs to choose his company. Preferably someone who also likes prose, but not too much. Too much conversation at a barbecue is like a very high fire: it misses the point. This is why the best sheep or ram is the one done in good company, with a conversation also on a slow fire, spaced between sips of beer, good wine, or gulps of good cane.

Well, here comes free teaching. This consists of doing all of this at the same time, taking care of the timing of each meat. There is a classic sequence, which starts with the sausage, goes through the beef, pauses with the chicken and ends with the sheep or mutton. Then, to finish off, a final piece of rib, for example. Among the meats, the salads.

That's all? No.

Ownership was missing. The professor becomes a full professor by doing all of this at the same time, surrounded by a horde of intruders around him, managing to maintain the rhythm, sequence and quality. The intruders are invariably male, and of the worst kind. There are two types. The first is the one next to the barbecue and snacks on everything that passes by. Usually it is a relative of a guest, or of the owner of the house, if the guest is the barbecue chef. He takes advantage of this privileged condition, like some feudal baronet, to place himself in this strategic area and steal, as if it were a toll right, or jus prima carnis, a peck of everything that passes by. And he starts telling boring jokes and making the worst possible comments about everything, from football to politics, to distract the barbecue chef and lead him to failure.

The other type of intruder is the one who thinks he knows more than the barbecue chef, and spends all his time making guesses: “this one is going to happen too much, that one has already passed, this other one isn't ready yet, but you're not going to put it on. that rib all at once?” And so on. Just killing.

The intruders are usually harried mothers, especially north of the Rio Grande, who want to protect their precious offspring. They stand in front of the barbecue, with an open roll, often with the crumb removed and filled with the abominable vinaigrette, saying “I want a little piece for my son or daughter”. There is no point in saying that there is nothing ready, because the answer is clear: “but he or she is so hungry…” The best thing in these cases is to have something prepared very early, preferably some lean meat that is well-cooked straight away, as The intruder usually hates undercooked meat, so he can shove it down his throat before the sprout bursts.

For these reasons and others, a friend of mine, when having a barbecue, would put some of those yellow and black traffic tapes around the barbecue, warning: “anyone passing from here is at risk of their lives”.

Let's face it, it's that easy. Although this friend of mine took up the old camper traditions of the military rushes that made barbecue so popular, evoking the times when a gesture of more or less on the open pampa ended in a duel.

We will return to the subject. From the barbecue, I mean, to talk about the postdoctoral

The barbecue and the postdoctoral

During the post-doctorate in Literary Theory that I did in Canada, I had the privilege of studying with Professor Northrop Frye, at the University of Toronto, one of the most brilliant literary theorists of all time.

In addition to being a great literary critic, Northrop Frye also theorized about the teaching of literature. One of the things he mentioned to us – young teachers coming from different parts of the world – was that one of the peaks of a teacher's career was the moment when he became capable of doing what he called “erudite improvisation”. This teacher became capable of, for example, based on a student's question, speaking in a pertinent way about a topic that had not been foreseen or prepared.

With this in mind, I always remember a Sociology of Literature course that I took, while still in postgraduate studies at USP, with Professor Rui Coelho. To this day, I don't know very well what the course was specifically about, but I remember with wonder the professor's exceptional classes. Rui. From any question or comment, he revealed his fantastic erudition in everything, especially when it came to detective novels. I think that, in addition to my early reading of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Nero Wolfe and a bunch of detectives, this is where my undying passion for the genre comes from.

The same can be said about barbecue and its derivatives, especially the latter. Few things compare to the deliciousness of yesterday's sausage for breakfast today, for example.

Some derivatives may occur during the barbecue itself. For example, pork or beef or lamb chuleta. Pork requires a lot of care, as the ribs have little meat and the fillet can be tough. In the case of ribs, it is best to keep a good distance from the coals, with the bone facing down. In the case of fillet, a good alternative is to cover it with a crust of cassava flour, with salt on top, which is tapped at the end, making it fall. Chuletas or bistecas for northerners require a trivet, or grill, even if improvised between two skewers, as there is no way to put the bone down.

After the barbecue, one of the most delicious topics of the post-doctorate is the variations of carreteiro rice.

This dish is heir to the long journeys taking troops of ox back and forth, when the cattle drivers got lost (so to speak) on the pampas trails, without women to cook. The cart contained rice, beef jerky, and the essentials: salt, olive or common oil (called “oil” in the North of Brazil, beyond the border with Santa Catarina), an iron pan, a wooden spoon and other equipment. . The jerky had to be left in water to desalt, before chopping it to make rice.

The barbecue of a piece of meat grilled on the trepe (grill) was a warrior dish, capable of being made in times of war and rush. Carreteiro rice was already a more peaceful dish, requiring time to make, a camp or even a ranch warehouse.

One of the delights of carreteiro rice is making it with leftovers from yesterday's or the day before's barbecue, replacing the jerky with pieces of picanha, rib or other meat that may be left over. A tasty and simple variant is the so-called “whore rice”. This consists of making the carreteiro with chopped sausage or salsichão, instead of beef. Why “whore”? Because traditionally this recipe was cheaper than the one made with leftover meat or premium beef jerky, and was therefore usually served in the whorehouses of the past.

A curious semantic variation is that carreteiro rice is called “Maria Isabel” in Mato Grosso. According to the stories told, this is due to the fact that for a long time, long-distance truck drivers were almost synonymous with gauchos from São Marcos. And that in this region there was a boarding house for two sisters, Maria and Isabel. They served carreteiro rice to truck drivers and had the extreme glory of giving this dish its name. In fact, this is one of the greatest glories in life: giving up your name to name a dish, like “Filé a Osvaldo Aranha” in Rio de Janeiro (Steak with fries, farofa and egg). It is a greater glory than having given the name to the razor, the trash can in French (Monsieur Poubelle) or to some geographic accident or neighborhood, such as Tristeza, in Porto Alegre, it is said to be a descendant of the surname and family name of a resident of those lands.

Take the chosen piece to make the carreteiro rice, be it beef jerky, sausage, salsichão, rib, picanha, brisket (never use pork or chicken, as they dry out too much). Chop the piece into small pieces. Chop onion, garlic and tomatoes (in case of extreme need, you can use tomato puree). Place these, in that order, to brown, in the olive oil, over a slow heat. When the onion and garlic are golden, and the tomato is sautéed, add the pieces of meat with a little red wine, and let them braise for some time. When the mixture has reduced a little (not too much), add the rice and stir. Wait one moment.

Then add the boiling water, in a three to one ratio, that is, for each volume of that mixture, three volumes of water. Taste the broth to see if the salt is just right. If not, add a little, but not too much, considering future hypertension, etc. Cover the pan (which must be iron, of course) and let it cook. This should last fifteen to twenty minutes. Take care to leave the rice wet, never dry, when you remove the pan from the heat. The best option, if the company allows it, is to put the pan on the table, or tell people to serve themselves directly on the stove (gas, of course, or wood, never electric). Possible variants: serve with some chopped parsley, or also chopped hard-boiled egg. There are those who like to add shelled corn, or eat it off the cob, separately. Accompany it with a rich salad, cheese with guava paste for dessert, and the dish will be done.

Recommendation: during preparation, it is legal to take a drink of good cane to accompany it. You can also make a “lemonzinho” (squeezed in the North), that is, cachaça with squeezed lemon, without sugar, with at most a little ice in the summer. Then, during the meal, a red wine, something full-bodied.

And that's it, your postdoctoral degree is done.

And the salads?

My father didn't eat salads. Or better yet, I would eat a single salad – the one with potatoes and mayonnaise, on barbecue days.

There were mitigating factors. In that southern Brazil of the 1950s, people lived much more seasonally, that is, according to the seasons, and also the latitudes. In the height of summer and the depths of winter, for example, the green leaves in salads suffered, burning from the heat or frost. Even in spring, there was a risk of heavy rain, when not only lettuce (that was almost all there was) was destroyed, but also tomato plants and vegetables, which were few.

Fruits? It was the same. Bergamots and oranges, with khakis (in Rio Grande they say that), were autumn things. The apples were imported from Argentina, and they were bad, crumbly. The local ones were very acidic and were only used to make sweets. Watermelons, only in summer. Papayas were unknown. Papayas and melons were somewhat bitter, they needed sugar to be edible. The pineapples also needed to be sweetened, because they were too acidic. I only discovered Mangas when I moved to São Paulo, at the end of the 1960s.

Anyway, eating was much more limited.

As he got older, my father, after much insistence from my mother, started eating salads. Translation: on barbecue days, he would continue to eat the potato salad before the sausage and meat, but he would put one on his plate – just one! – lettuce leaf and one – a single one! – tomato slice. And that was it. In time: in those generations, “getting old” started right after fifty. Or it was sudden. One day, at the end of the 1950s, my father went to get a haircut at the barbershop (there was no unisex hairdresser – well, now that I live in very modern Berlin, I get my hair cut at a Turkish barbershop, just for men, something I also saw a lot of in Portugal). After the cut, he, who was dark-skinned, came back with a completely white head. So, suddenly, taken over by aging.

This means that I really entered the world of salads, because in terms of food my father was my idol, when I moved to São Paulo and I started to develop my own habits at the table.

Dating was an important part of getting into the habit of eating salad. Because there was a subtle identification between woman and salad. To this day, in fact, I consider salad, especially green salad, to be somewhat feminine.

Then, with the daughters that were born, came vegetables, soups, and more and more salads. “Green living” even became a political topic and took over the food space.

Today I am a habitual salad eater. Every now and then I eat potato salads when I remember my father. But only with homemade or artisanal mayonnaise, never supermarket glass.

I love a variety of tomato, onion, tomato and heart of palm, mixed, and I prefer simple seasonings, with olive oil, vinegar, balsamic or lemon and a little salt. Even after being declared hypertensive, I can't do without a little salt on my salad, with a moderate lack of moderation.

But the quintessence of the salad, for me, is pure green, lettuce. I don't know why, but it is something with a sacred background, although pagan and profane in nature. I think it stems from the fact that I consider salad – lettuce in particular – linked to the feminine side of life. Maybe because of my mother's insistence that my father eat salads.

There is also respect for living things. A tomato is a fruit, much like, in a way, a cucumber, or a corncob. But a head of lettuce is something whole, it is a total, totalized and totalizing being.

And no one tell me that plants, vegetables, “don’t feel anything”. Oh my. Yes, they do, and how! Plants talk to each other – with the help of wind and roots, it's been proven. They become sad, or lively and happy, they take refuge in their roots in difficult times, then they explode with joy when reborn or blossom.

So, when I take a head of lettuce, I am aware that I am going to season and chew a living being while it is whole and alive. It is almost an act of cannibalism, without being anthropophagy. Lettuce, like blood or wine, can be intoxicating. There are those who drown themselves in wine, or more unfortunately, in blood, and even those who drown others in blood, in wars and, for example, in the beheadings that marked my pay in the past, during the bloody and bloody turmoil of wars. civilians or against the Castilians. I, more modestly and civilly, drown myself in lettuce.

I am aware, therefore, that when I take a head of lettuce to transform it into a salad, I am entering a sacred circle, I am taking a piece of life myself to transform it into part of me. I'm not buying a piece of meat from a being that was slaughtered far away, in some distant slaughterhouse, quartered and transported in gigantic slices to the slaughterhouses and then broken into small pieces for the butchers of life.

No, it is I myself who will process the rite of universal swallowing, transforming that living and whole being, despite its roots already severed, into an edible salad.

So I approach the lettuce head filled with a solemn feeling of the sacredness of the gesture, aware that I am taking in my hands a living and entire part of the Mystery of Nature, of Creation, and that I will, almost heretically, recreate it in myself, as part of my insides, my atoms, my moments of pleasure. If the lettuce appears to me as a Goddess, I feel before it with something of the Divine, of the power of something external to make something else in me, to share it within me, which makes me, therefore, share, even if symbolically, of the feminine nature of procreation, therefore me, the male with mustaches who loves barbecues and gaucho jokes.

So, with this awareness in my hands and now in my teeth, I take the lettuce. It's impossible to eat it whole. It is, therefore, necessary to quarter the leaves, pruning them one by one from the stem that must feel the painful dismemberment like a human being who, in an ancient ritual, was quartered while alive, like the Inca Tupac Amaru. So I want to try the lettuce in smaller, smaller pieces, to better savor its taste and consistency.

But it gives me chills, it gives me chills, using a knife for that purpose. This reminds me of the barbarity of the warrior beheadings of yesteryear that bloodied the pampas, that bloodied Canudos.

I let my feminine side take me completely: like a Bacchante of Euripides I tear her apart in ecstasy with my own hands, and so she is ready for seasoning and tasting, when she transubstantiates herself in me and transmits to me the powers of her fertile femininity.

American cuisine

Despite my childhood adventures and my first barbecue – burning the subversive newspapers my brother had brought home after the 1964 coup – I made the first systematic foray into the realm of cooking in the United States.

Chic, no?

It just happened that, luckily for me, right after the 1st hit. In April I received a scholarship from the American Field Service to complete a high school course at the headquarters of imperialism that had helped to overthrow the Goulart government.

And there I went, at the end of August of that fateful year, to the city of Burlington, Vermont, where, in addition to the family that would welcome me, the high School .

It was a trip full of adventures, many of them to be told in another context. Here, in this series, I have reserved the narrative of how we broke, by mutual agreement, between me and the kitchen, our mutual virginity.

I did not become a cook, neither born nor adopted. This came later. But for the first time in my life I found myself in a home without the very Brazilian institution of domestic workers. Sharing the house, in addition to with the American parents, with two of their four children, who still lived with them, I also shared the execution of domestic services.

These included things that were absolutely new to me, like the task of clearing snow from the driveway during the winter. And Vermont has a Canadian climate, the kind where the snow falls and stays on the ground for months on end without melting. Another news: my American father had a car (my Brazilian father bought his first car, a used Rural Willys, still imported, while I was in Vermont). And it was up to us, the young people, to wash it, summer and winter, autumn and spring. Washing a car at a temperature two degrees above zero is no easy feat. When the temperature dropped to several degrees below zero (my record at the time was minus 27 degrees, surpassed sixteen years later by the minus 40 I endured in Canada) it was impossible to wash the car and it then had to be taken to a professional garage. .

But there were other more prosaic tasks, although equally fascinating because of their novelty. Although they already existed in Brazil, for the first time I had a vacuum cleaner in my hands. Ditto, for the first time I handled a washing machine, extending it afterwards. Ditto, a lawn mower. Other more prosaic objects passed through my hands for the first time, such as dusters and brooms. For me, all this belonged to the feminine world, not mine.

And I actually made my debut in the kitchen. Through the back door. Just as a first-timer enters the ship as a cabin boy, it was up to me, with my American brothers, to set and clear the table, and wash and dry the dishes, as there was no dishwasher, a very chic thing reserved for the super rich.

These tasks – especially washing the dishes – took me to a “brave new world”. Where I came from – Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, 1964 – there were already some “modernities”. I have already referred to the gas stove, for example. There were also detergents, soaps and soaps, and corn oil and olive oil (in Rio Grande do Sul it is still said, respectively, “olive oil” and “olive oil” – and soybean oil, sunflower oil, etc. would come later) they were already starting to replace lard or coconut fat in frying. But the protagonist of cleaning in the kitchen of an average middle-class family like mine continued to be stone soap, with steel wool competing for the Oscar for supporting artist, as Bombril was still a novelty and the sponge was something recently used. only in the bathroom, to wash your body. It was still common to see women scrubbing pots in the backyard with brick dust or sand to remove grease or grease from old iron pots (oh, how I miss them!), as aluminum or stainless steel ones were expensive innovations – as well as the pressure cooker.

These novelties were still handled at times with high risk. A cousin of mine, much older and wealthy, was one of the first in the extended family to have a gas stove. One fine day he turned on the gas in the oven and realized that he had forgotten the matches in the living room. He went to look for them and, getting close to the stove, lit one of them. Fortunately the oven door was closed, because in the explosion that followed, the door and he, who was almost two meters tall and weighed around a hundred kilos, were thrown through the other door, the kitchen door, which was open, onto the floor of the room. living room. Fortunately, the explosion itself extinguished the flame that would follow and he, still dazed, but with only a few minor bruises and burns, had the presence of mind to run to turn off the gas and open all the windows and doors in the kitchen and house.

So, upon entering North American cuisine, my first sensation was one of wonder at so much newness. To begin with, the stove was electric (something I abhor today). Above it was a contraption called an exhaust fan, which I had never seen in my life, not even in the house of my rich godparents, my mother's brother and sister-in-law. The pans had a bronze-colored outer bottom. All I had to do was apply a paste to them, which I still don't know what it was, and that's it! They were already shining with cleanliness. Nothing stuck to the bottom (they weren't made of tefal yet).

I had seen an iron pan that belonged to my maternal grandfather, which he had brought from Germany or Belgium. Or was it his wife, my grandmother, who had lived in Argentina, a country that was much more new in terms of technology than the backward Brazil? Or even from my paternal grandmother, who came from Rivera, in Uruguay, a country – at that time called “South American Switzerland” – also much more covered by European innovations than ours, where the process of import substitution had already begun? The aforementioned pan had a coating made of I don't know what until today that prevented it from sticking, but it had already been used up on the bottom, which had become the same as the others.

At the bottom of the sink there was a grinder – the grinder – grinder – where we threw everything that was left into pieces, placed the drain in a certain position, partially closed, and turned on the tap water with all the force, and wham! With a lot of noise, it's true, everything went downhill.

This was the gateway to some important changes: unlike my Brazilian home, which obeyed Lavoisier's principle, “nothing is lost, everything is transformed”, the rule there was not to reuse leftovers. What was left followed the path of the relentless grinder. Especially because cooking was a daily task: the exact number of steaks or, better said, hamburgers was made. If the piece was roast meat, the measurement was just right for dinner, etc. There was nothing like transforming yesterday's barbecue into today's croquette, like in my house in Porto Alegre, something that, at that time, I started to consider “late” (it wasn't yet said “tacky”, this came shortly after, with The Quibbler) in front of the “advancement” of my adopted home. With all this innovative paraphernalia, cleaning the kitchen and washing the dishes took a maximum of half an hour, unlike the hours of scrubbing and washing that maids or housewives in my home country had to undergo.

And there were also edible news. If our mother (like in Brazil, yes, my American father only cooked on very special occasions) had to go out, she would leave us with the tv dinners, plates made of aluminum where the delicacies were ready: just take them out of the freezer and heat them in the oven (there were no microwaves yet, it's true). And if the father was also gone, we would have the luxury of eating them right in front of the TV (which was still black and white, color was new even there and its image wasn't like that), something that It was normally banned. What a wonder of wonders! Today I abhor this food, which I generally consider worse than hospital or barracks food, but for me then they were worth Fernando Pessoa's poem: “And was I happy then? I don't know. I was once now!”, or something similar, which I am quoting from memory.

Of this wonderful world that I discovered, I was left with a single piece. It is a large, scissor-shaped tong that is used to turn meat in a frying pan, on a barbecue or barbecue, that oblong thing that we place on top of the stove's gas burner to grill meat in an apartment, especially here in Berlin, without smoke, very high Pampean technology that amazes the European aborigines, which I brought as a gift for my Brazilian home, a trophy of innovative modernity in that primitive hollow that we called “the Sobrado”, as inThe time and the wind, Érico, and for whom, today, I miss him.

In the shade of flowering pots

The world of barbecue soon led me to encounter masculine equipment: skewers, trivets (grills), large, pointed knives, charcoal, coarse salt. One of my favorite knives belonged to my paternal grandfather, who was a traveling salesman. It was a complete instrument for country life. In addition to the tip and the thread, there was a saw on the loin opposite to it, which was eventually used to cut bones. Furthermore, there was a hole in the blade, close to the handle, and a small groove on the side opposite to the edge, a combination that was used to bend and cut wires. I wonder if it would be useful for stealing cattle and horses, although I know that my grandfather didn't. was given to such things. On the side of the thread, at the same height, there was a larger groove, the thickness of a little finger (the little finger of my childhood, which dictionaries insist on calling pinky). This groove was used to smooth the corn husks used to make the Creole cigarette, the haystack. What else did a guasca need in the field, besides the horse, the lasso, the poncho, the clothes on his back, the wide-brimmed hat, and a firearm? Let's face it, nothing.

However, the kitchen's alma mater was and is the pan – in its varied forms. My approach to the pan was more nuanced, slow, gradual and insecure. Like those good-time romances, where you had to hold hands with the girl for a long time before kissing her. Well, this was when many houses still had a gate in front of the garden, which was left open, instead of the paraphernalia of cameras, intercom walls and jagged wires. And there were also no guardhouses and guards financed by the residents of the block. Policing was carried out by night guards and their long whistles at night and, during the day, by pairs of brigadiers (the Rio Grande do Sul PMs), called Pedro and Paulo (in Rio, the name was Cosme and Damião; in São Paulo, I don't know what it was like). They patrolled the streets on foot, not entrenched in vehicles, they knew the residents and the children who, in fact, played in the street – in the street! – and late into the night in spring and summer. Oh time, I miss you more!

In addition to looking at them from a distance, in that kingdom that belonged to women, especially black women, the kitchen, my first approach to pans was literary. I vaguely remember “Dom Ratão” who, out of curiosity, “fell into the pot of beans”, ruining the wedding of “Dona Baratinha, who had money in the box”. Then came the Snow White Witch's cauldron, which I watched at Cine Marabá, which today became a garage or parking lot for cars (thankfully it wasn't bingo or church). Other cauldrons appeared in the cinema, but this was the one that stuck in my memory, along with the fear I felt. Oh yes, I was also impressed to see Snow White washing the dwarfs' filthy pans, proof for me, from the age of six, that the kingdom of pans really belonged to women: even princesses got their hands dirty, that is, on the mop, the pan and the soap.

But the real prestige went to the pots by Tia Nastácia, Sítio do Picapau Amarelo, Monteiro Lobato, which I read from cover to cover at least three times, the first time when I was eight years old. It was on a day when I was very impressed because I watched a science fiction film (the first I had seen), in which a Martian monster shaped like people, but half vegetable, haunted a research station at one of the poles, and had to be exterminated with electrical discharges, which consumed him in flames and a huge smoke. At night, I couldn't sleep, and my mother gave me Reigns of Narizinho to read. Not only did I end up sleeping very well that night, I didn't stop until I reached the end of it.The twelve labors of Hercules, the last book in the collection.

There must also have been other literary pots in my literary and childhood life, but the indelible ones were those of Dona Benta's cook. It was also one of the first glimpses of my social consciousness, as I realized that, if pans and the kitchen were the kingdom of the black Tia Nastácia, the name of the most famous Brazilian cookbook is Dona Benta: eat well.

In any case, there was a rapprochement between me and the pan: to make potato salad for the barbecue it was necessary to cook them first, for example. I also learned how to reheat rice and beans. But the consecration really came through, once again, cinema.

Now older and living in São Paulo, where he had had some dalliances with different pans, one day in 1972 I went to watch The Godfather, by Coppola. I loved the film, an adoration that remains to this day. Days later, I went to have lunch at a friend's house. He prepared something simple: spaghetti with tomato sauce and sausage (at that time I had trema) and washed down with a glass of wine inside (and several inside us). And he told me that he had learned this recipe (which I consider the kindergarten, today called daycare, the kitchen) in the film, at the moment when the Corleones and their friends are confined in a house waiting for the phone call that will indicate the place where Mike will do what he will do. One of the friends (I should say henchmen, but despite everything the Corleones are the good guys in the film and henchmen are for bad guys, which are the others, Solozzo, the corrupt police officer, the other mobsters, etc.), returning, one of the Friends teach the youngest member of the family how to prepare a dish like this, with wine from a bottle, “in case one day he needs to do the same”.

I was amazed. I saw the film, but I didn't pay attention to the recipe. I was so impressed that I went to see the film again, just to check out the recipe. And I hurried to reproduce it later. I think it was the first time I followed a recipe to the letter, at least.

And it was also the first time I was convinced of the prestige of the pans. From then on, between me and them it was a definitive marriage, until death do us part. Marriage yes, but polygamous, because, as appropriate, I made love with a veritable harem of multiple pans.

The enemy hosts and the decisive battle of an endless war…

As time passed and things changed or not, the landscapes became different. I left Porto Alegre to go into exile in São Paulo, I entered USP as a student and remained a professor (idem, ibidem), I got married, I was arrested, I was released (idem, ibidem), I moved house, and one fine day a daughter, my firstborn, Renata. (Afterwards, Maria and Tânia would come).

Along the way, my familiarity with the realm of cuisine increased. I learned how to make soups – initially a big failure, because at the time I thought that making soup meant boiling everything I came across. Pasta: relative successes, I learned how to make reasonable red sauces and bolognese. And meat: absolute success, following the cattle traditions that he had brought from the pampas.

Although my first barbecue in São Paulo was something that left me perplexed. A preliminary explanation: at that time, Brazil was still much more regionalized than before. In São Paulo there was only one steakhouse (that I remember) worthy of the name, near Congonhas airport, which even served imported beers from Rio Grande do Sul: Espeto de Ouro. Then they opened another one at the entrance to Cidade Universitária, the late Tropeiro (today it's a workshop or something like that, fortunately it's not bingo or Evangelical Church).

But the barbecue was held on a farm in Cotia, for my coworkers at the school where I had gotten a job as an English teacher, the also late Ginásio Pluricurricular Experimental – Gepe – II, which was murdered by the governments of the Dictatorship. As I was from Rio Grande do Sul, they insisted that I cook the barbecue. Well, then I came across the meat: a bunch of steaks cut very thin. I saw the owner of the place washing the steaks, “to remove the blood”. Scenes of a murderous crime crossed my mind, but I let it go.

They placed me in front of a low brazier, with the idea of ​​grilling (burning) those steaks to a state close to the sole of a shoe, which were then eaten (with great praise) in a French bread sandwich filled with vinaigrette sauce in the middle. , which was the predominant taste. I conclude that in São Paulo, at that time, apart from Espeto de Ouro, meat was a scorched excuse to eat bread with vinaigrette.

But we kept going. Still, cooking, for me, was something collateral: a secondary effect of married life. In the various homes we lived in, my wife Iole and I, a Mathematics professor at USP to this day, relied on the services of helpful cleaners or day laborers: Sebastiana, Nininha, Dalva, Raquel, Inês, whom I pay just tribute.

We had a more or less constant system: they made the base, that is, when they arrived, rice, beans, some meat intended for longer consumption. We made do on a daily basis, providing salads and other occasional or festive things, depending on the occasion.

What changed everything was the arrival of Renata, in a torrid February of 1973. Because from then on, cooking began to become a daily, mandatory requirement. We were parents of the new generation, who wanted to take charge of and share the domestic work, including caring for their children. We were lucky to find a brilliant pediatrician, Dr. Rubens Blasi, to whom I also pay tribute (unfortunately he is already in eternal hospitals, perhaps caring for the souls of children drowned in the Mediterranean, such was his generosity and patience). And Dr. Blasi introduced us to the world of child care, after the period of exclusive breastfeeding. In other words: preparing the daily soup, with care and attention.

It involved boiling vegetables, cassava, potatoes, xuxu, cabbage, etc., with a piece of meat for flavor (then came the liver, which my daughter loved to eat raw – aaarrggh!). Then pass everything through a sieve, return it to the broth, add a pinch of salt, reheat, check the temperature, and serve, with a drizzle of olive oil “to break the feeling of hunger”, according to him, to add flavor according to me, I would love for my daughter to leave some leftovers to savor, if the meat wasn't the sinister liver, with another dash of olive oil (Mmmmm...).

I think I was one of the first decidedly feminist parents in Left Bank do Pirajussara (the stream that borders the USP campus). We religiously shared our household duties, including the soup ritual, from making it to feeding Renata.

It turns out that twice a year, in July and December, we went back to the south (Iole is also from there) to visit families. And it was in one of these Julys that the first battle with the Kitchen Amazons took place.

I remember it well: we went to lunch at a mutual friend's house. A magnificent house, on the banks of the Guaíba River (whoever wants to call it Lake Guaíba, that gag fact invented by postmodern real estate, because the protection strip of the lakes is smaller than that of the rivers). We were welcomed into a comfortable room. Outside, the minuano mooed, roared, roared and howled. Guaíba was bucking, willing to recover its domains taken over by successive landfills, the former Brizolândia, a tribute to the great leader of Legality, today the Brazilian Navy Park). Bitingly cold. Inside, the warmth of a wonderful fireplace, something that until then was only for rich or well-to-do people. There were aperitifs, I think mine was a cognac.

But it's time for soup. According to the marital calendar, it was my turn to prepare and feed the soup. Furthermore, the common friend was Iole's oldest friend, and my most recent one. So I went to her, asking permission to go to the kitchen and heat up the soup (which had already been prepared before…), the olive oil, a plate and a spoon.

I had the airtight pan in my hand, where the soup was resting, when another hand tried to take it. It was her friend's hand. A providential cook appeared out of nowhere, along with some scullery maid, not to mention perhaps the cleaning lady who, more distantly, followed the scene, as a vigilant reserve for the attack.

– Leave it, said the friend seductively, to… what a tragedy, I don’t remember the name, but I pay due homage to this warrior, the Unknown Cook.

Quickly, like a motorized artillery unit, the said cook advanced, ready to take care of the booty, the soup of discord. She was supported by the kitchen maid, occupation troops, who said she was ready to give the girl soup. While the cleaning lady watched everything from afar, perhaps willing to mobilize aerial vacuum cleaners to swallow me or armored brooms to sweep me.

Suddenly, I found myself face to face with a true polyclassist front, a Moncloa pact avant-la-letter, all ready to steal my trophy, the soup that I had made myself.

Under the cover of kindness, I noticed the Sibylline looks, worthy of Macbeth's witches: 

– You weren't made for this. He doesn't know how to do this. It will be a failure. You are trying to invade our territory. Forget. We will defend it with nails, teeth, knives, spoons and forks. Don't come closer! You have been warned!AttentionVerbotenYou are leaving your macho sector! Surrender! Put yourself in your place!

I had to gather all my strength, my Resistance guerrillas, scattered throughout my body and mind, to say that I wanted to do that myself, and I delicately said that I would not give up my right as a father. With other words, of course, more polite, I managed to say no, no, and no! I make it myself, I'm used to it, I have the right to heat my daughter's soup and give it to her!…

I didn't hand over the pot of soup, and I headed on my own towards where I assumed the kitchen was.

As I was actually heading towards the toilet, the vigilant cleaning lady, transformed into a UN blue beret, instructed me: 

– It’s that way.

And there I went, knowing that now, in fact, I was conquering the kingdom that had been forbidden to me in a war that has no end.

And I asked, boldly: 

– Do you have a wooden spoon to stir the soup?

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]


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